Here's How to Choose Between Paint and Wallpaper, According to a Designer

Decorating doesn't have to feel overwhelming!

<p>Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images</p>

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images

Are you bored with your walls lately? If your home has lots of neutral furniture and decor, it might be begging for some color. The two easiest ways to add color and style to any home are with wallpaper and paint. But how do you choose the right one? Are there some rooms that should never have wallpaper? Here’s how one designer recommends choosing between wallpaper and paint.

Related: The 10 Best Wallpapers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Your Budget is Limited

If you’re working with a limited budget, paint is a better bang for the buck. Wallpaper can be very pricey and unless you use peel and stick, needs to be professionally installed. While it isn’t easy for everyone, paint is one of the things that even inexperienced people can DIY, saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

You Already Have Patterned Upholstery

Do you have a fabric headboard with a leaf pattern in your bedroom? A gingham sofa in the living room? Interior designer Kate Dawson suggests keeping the rest of your home simple and opting for paint. “If you choose furniture with a patterned fabric, you'll probably want to keep the walls mostly painted,” she explains. “However, choosing one wall as an accent wall can always add style without overdoing it.”

You’re Decorating a Smaller Space

Dawson tells me there is no better opportunity to level up a smaller space such as a powder room or dining room than with wallpaper. “These spaces are usually just begging for some flair. Especially if the dining room has wainscoting—install wallpaper above it for a classic, but still contemporary look.”

Installing wallpaper in a powder room is also a great way to incorporate a color or pattern you like but wouldn’t necessarily want in a larger space such as a lobster print in a beach house or a pink toile in a country cottage.

You’re Renovating Your Kitchen and Want to Add Some Color

If you've renovated your kitchen in recent years, it likely has that on-trend, neutral aesthetic. While you might be thinking of adding some wallpaper—paint would be a far better choice. “Generally, I don't think wallpaper belongs in a kitchen. It feels too 1970s and 1980s,” explains the interior designer. “Plus with the current kitchen trends, the texture and pattern are often played up with the countertop and backsplash, not to mention boldly painted cabinets with a lot of metal elements throughout. Keep the focus on those things, not the walls.”

Are You a Commitment-Phobe?

Wallpaper, even the peel-and-stick kind is a real commitment. It’s expensive and requires both time and money to install. On the other hand, paint can be purchased inexpensively and most people can DIY it. It’s also an easy fix. Don't like the color you ended up with? Just prime again and repaint.

Go Bold and Opt for Both

Dawson loves combining wallpaper with paint colors for a room with extra wow factor. “I often wallpaper two walls, then pull a color from the wallpaper to go on the remaining walls. Mixing and matching creates interest without tiring the eye and gives the space drama and style without it feeling overly busy or cluttered.”

Keep in Mind...

Dawson tells me that, in general, wallpaper should be used more sparingly and more deliberately than paint. “Now don't get me wrong, I love wallpaper... but if every wall of every room is covered with paper, it all starts to look like a big mushy mess.”

Related: 11 Clever and Unexpected Ways to Decorate With Paint

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